How To Go Green With Business Cards

The green approach to business cards can benefit from the overall green mantra being applied to it: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Yes, business cards are essential in today’s business climate, but they don’t have to be wasteful, they can be functional and they should always be recyclable!

That means a big NO to the latest trend in plastic business cards – yes they last longer, but do you really want to be advertising your business 100 years from now in the landfill?

Reduce
Have fewer business cards printed. See if you can get a deal with a printing company whereby they will keep your design on record and print them off in smaller batches as you need them. There’s nothing more wasteful than a huge batch of business cards ordered one year, only for you to change some details and need a new one before you’ve even used half of them.

Re-use
Find ways of making your business cards re-usable. The obvious use would be as bookmarks and coffee mats, but you can get really creative with this. Here are some ideas we like
re-usable clothes-peg business cardre-usable elastic band business cardOr re-use old business cards and hand-write your details on the back to make a statement:

re-use old business cards
Recycle
It goes without saying that your business cards should be recyclable. Stick with paper and card and avoid the metallic and plastic effects that are becoming popular now. Even better go for recycled card and paper and vegetable based inks which are available at most eco-conscious printers these days.Here is one place to go for printing green business cards in Cape Town.

If your business is seriously green in mindset and a slick image is less important than an authentically green one, make your own cards by recycling cardboard from cereal packets, tea boxes and so on. cardboard stamped business card

Or re-use scrap office paper.

recycled scrap paper business cardIf you’ve got some great ideas or great pics of green business cards, please do share!

Drive Green, Save Fuel, Plant Trees

drive green save fuel

© Creativei | Dreamstime.com

Going green is about changing your mindset, so that everything you do is geared towards minimizing your carbon footprint. We try, but there are some areas where it’s hard to live the green ideal. Driving is one of our biggest Achilles heels.

So it was great to see this article on saving fuel by changing your driving habits. I already do several of the things advised on the list, but there are points where I could do better – checking the tyres for one! With the price of petrol constantly on the rise, anything we can do to cut consumption has to be good, not just for the environment but also for our pockets.

Living on a farm you’d think would be a very green way of living, and in many ways it is. We can grow our own vegetables, compost much of our waste and so on. But when it comes down to transport it is the opposite of green – distances are further for schools, shopping and face to face meetings. This is when it starts to seem like a greener choice to live in a town or city…There is little or no public transport in rural areas, it’s too far to walk or bicycle to the nearest town… so until  the solar powered car becomes a reality, we just have to ease our consciences by combining trips, sharing lifts and planting trees to try and offset our carbon footprint.

But now I have something else on my eco-conscience – a planned family reunion that involves flying halfway across the world with our children. How many large trees are we going to have to plant to make up for that I wonder?!

Green Gift Ideas – Useful Gifts

Green Christmas gifts

© Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com

Useful gifts used to be frowned on. It was better to give something frivolous and decorative than something the recipient could really use. Gifts were supposed to be inessentials, luxuries, prettinesses.

Nowadays we reckon it’s time those restrictions went out of the window. With everyone tightening their belts and cutting budgets, or else going minimalist and decluttering, most frivolous gifts end up being a waste of money and a waste of precious resources.

The truly green gift is useful.

Useful is defined as being something the recipient will actually use – it doesn’t have to be dull – socks again, Dad? Not that there’s anything wrong with socks!  So here are just a few suggestions of useful gifts that would be welcome at our house.

Gourmet cooking ingredients
I love cooking and baking and am always sorely tempted by the gorgeous but expensive ingredients on display next to the regular ones at the supermarket. So a hamper filled with Nomu cocoa and other goodies, real vanilla extract, organic stoneground flour and other organic and gourmet ingredients would be used and appreciated.

LED light bulbs
Like many families we want to go greener but can’t always afford the materials. We’ve had LED light bulbs on our shopping list for ages, but haven’t been able to afford to make the switch. So for the aspiring green family a selection of top quality LED light bulbs would make a thoughtful and very green gift.  Just check what light sockets they have before you buy and consult with an LED specialist about the best options.

Trees or Plants
If someone in your family enjoys gardening, or is about to redesign their garden, how about buying plants or trees. One of my best gifts last year was a whole selection of herbs to re-stock my herb garden, a gift that I am still enjoying over a year later as the herbs continue to flourish. Depending on their garden think of getting a couple of large trees, together with the planting service (no-one wants to spend Christmas holidays digging enormous holes and hefting about large trees!) Or else give them a voucher for a plant nursery near them so they can choose their own selection of plants.

Craft materials
This is a great one for kids – instead of getting yet another plastic toy, get craft materials for them to create with. Don’t get a set in a box (just more for the recycling and often cheap and nasty materials inside) – rather buy a stack of felt squares in a rainbow of colours together with needle and embroidery silks. Or buy a blank canvas with a set of paints or a stack of good quality painting paper with a selection of art materials.

Natural Candles
If you’re still struggling with the useful concept a candle would be the perfect gift for those that love candlelight. To make sure it is green make sure it is a soy, beeswax or hemp candle, not the usual paraffin/petroleum wax. Candles made from natural materials are more expensive, another reason for them to make good gifts, but they are better for the air quality  in the home, better for the environment and smell much nicer too!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea – find something that the person would like to buy regularly but which is a bit of a luxury. Everyone has something different. When I was a kid it used to be tobacco for pipe-smoking uncles or a favourite brand of whisky – nowadays my biggest vice is chocolate, so I’d be more than happy to be bought a bundle of slabs of Lindt chocolate… useful, maybe not… appreciated definitely!

More green gift ideas for gifts that aren’t just stuff. And green gifts that aren’t just clutter.

Green Gift Ideas – Don’t Give A Thing!

Green gift ideasI don’t mean not to give anything as a gift, but rather don’t give a ‘Thing”… a thing being an object that takes up space, isn’t really wanted and quickly becomes clutter to be discarded before next Christmas. It’s fine if you know that someone really wants that object, will use it and appreciate it, but what about all those other unwanted gifts that nestle under the tree.

Here are some green gift ideas that aren’t things, won’t take up any space and will be appreciated all the more for that.

Massage
Everyone loves a massage, but how many of us actually treat ourselves to one regularly? A gift of a massage session with a skilled masseur, whether it is an aromatherapy massage, a foot massage with pedicure or any other pampering treatment is a Christmas gift that is bound to be appreciated by most women and many men. Choose a therapy centre near the recipient, or a luxury spa, depending on your budget, pay for the massage and ask them to give you a voucher to be used any time in the next few months.

Photography Courses
How many budding photographers do you know who are struggling to learn all their camera functions and would love to learn how to take better photos? Why not arrange a photography course or workshop for them as a gift.  A one-on-one workshop gives them a chance to ask all the questions they need and focus on their particular area of photography or a longer course gives them time to practice their skills in a group.

Flower pictures
Looking for an inexpensive gift idea – how about selecting and downloading some flower pictures from a photo gallery online. They can be downloaded in several sizes depending on what you want to do with them –  the small size suitable for web use can cost as little as $1, larger ones for web use $3 and sizes for printing from $10. So you can get some beautiful flower art for very little.

Meal out for Two
When budgets are stretched almost the first thing we cut is eating out. The gift of a meal out at a good local restaurant would delight many couples. Arrange with the restaurant for a voucher and check with them the average price of a three course meal.

Tickets for a Concert or Show
Is there a band coming to town that they love, or perhaps the Kirstenbosch summer concerts if you’re in Cape Town. Surprise them with tickets for the show.

Download books
Have they got a kindle or other digital reader?  A Kindle book download voucher is a very green gift – just make sure that you know which format they use.

Eco travel
If you really want to splash out on a gift, how about paying for holiday in an unspoilt paradise, where the locals are restoring a coral reef and need the support of travelers to fund the process – perhaps the flights make it less green overall, but as a gift it certainly would wow the recipient!

If you want to have something tangible to put under the tree, how about a home-made card on recycled paper that contains a voucher or a slip of paper telling what the gift is going to be.

More green gift ideas that aren’t just clutter.

Energy Efficient Lighting – LEDs, CFLs or halogens?

© Wd2007 | Dreamstime.com

If you’re confused by the latest developments in the energy efficient light bulb field, check out this article just published in the New York Times. In Almost Time to Change the Bulb, the writer, pen name The Pragmatist, examines what all the new lighting terminology means and then goes shopping for a variety of the latest energy efficient light bulbs to test in his home.

It’s very readable with plenty of humour and some user-friendly advice for anyone else about to embark on the great switch over.

LED’s score well for overhead and directional lighting, while he finds that some of the new halogens, though less energy-efficient, provide a better diffuse light . CFLs are also on his recommended list for some applications.

Of course all the brands mentioned in the article relate to the U.S., so if you are looking for more specific advice on the latest LED lighting technology available in South Africa, check out Candela LED, who have a good range of top quality brands.

Remember too that LED technology is developing rapidly, so we should see more advances in lighting quality and versatility,  as well as a gradual reduction in price over the next while.

Newspapers – Reuse Before You Recycle

© Oleg Pidodnya | Dreamstime.com

Recycling newspapers is easy enough to do, and recycled paper can be made into many products but, before you recycle that stack of papers, think about re-using them.

In fact there are so many ways of using old newspapers around the home, that I am dreading the day when there is no-one left in our family actually reading the things. My husband gets his news electronically, so we never buy them and rely on the older generation for our supply, my mother-in- law, who still buys a daily paper to keep in touch. What we will do if she gives up the news habit, I really don’t know! Any ideas?

Here are just a few of the uses that they can be put to.

1. Soaking up spills, pet urine and other unfortunate puddles.
A few sheets of newspaper will quickly soak the liquid up away from the floor, making the clean up easier. Our three dogs lose all their house training when there are storms and we wake up to puddles in the house, so this is a frequent need, going through stacks of paper in no time in winter. The paper can then be added to the compost heap, if you can bear to tear it into slightly smaller pieces so that it will decompose properly.

2. Lighting fires.
Newspaper is an essential kindling for any fire. Twist a few sheets lengthwise into loose screws and place under the rest of the kindling (small slivers of wood, pine cones etc), to get your fire going without any need for fire lighters.

3. Lining pet cages
Bunnies and guinea-pigs need regular cleaning of their cages. It makes it a whole lot easier if you place several sheets of newspaper at the bottom of the cage to soak up urine and water spills. The whole lot  can be lifted out when dirty and discarded on the compost heap.

4. Wrapping paper
Large items can be tricky to wrap and require huge amounts of expensive new wrapping paper to cover. Go retro and pick out the best pages of newspaper for wrapping Christmas gifts. Choose the cartoon pages for kids, fun headlines for adults and so on. Tie it all with re-usable ribbon or raffia, saved from last Christmas, and you have a totally green, recyclable wrapping for free.

5. Planting trees
Trees planted in light sandy soils need help to retain moisture around their roots, especially in hot, dry climates, such as the Western Cape in summer.. Torn newspapers added to the base of the planting hole before the compost will help moisture retention and give the tree a good start. This is especially important if you are planting large trees which need all the help they can get to settle in.

These are just a few of the things we use newspaper for. What about you? Share any great green tips with us in the comments.

Re-use – 3 things you don’t need to recycle

© Kit Heathcock

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all there is to do to make my lifestyle as green as possible, I go back to the fundamental  mantra for green living: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.

Recycling is essential, but first on the list is Reduce. Reduce the amount of non-essentials you bring into your home in the first place, in the way of packaging, cheap plastic freebies from supermarkets and take-away food chains, promotional leaflets, junk mail and so on.

Then comes Re-use. Re-use anything you can possibly think of before it hits the recycling bin. This is where you need to get imaginative and creative. Re-using jam jars for your own preserves is one obvious example, but there are so many other things that will keep resources in use for longer and so reduce the carbon footprint of each item. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Jam jars – besides your own jam making, jam jars have a multitude of possible uses: vases for posies of herbs and garden flowers; water glasses when you break the last of your conventional glasses; funky containers for party jellies/jellos; lanterns for festivals; pen-holders….

T-shirts – worn T-shirts can also be re-used in many ways: holey ones can be cut up into squares for all-purpose cleaning cloths; they can be cut into strips for rag rugs; they can be used for stuffing cushions or toys. T-shirts in reasonable condition can be re-purposed as skirts, nighties or kids dress up outfits.

Envelopes – Plain envelopes in good condition can simply be re-used with a blank label covering the address. Envelopes that are slightly worn can make good receptacles for collecting your receipts together every month. Torn envelopes are the perfect size for telephone notes or for shopping lists; simply use a paper clip or other clip to keep them all together in a handy place and grab one whenever you have the urge to make lists.

Got any other great ideas for re-using common household items? Let me know in the comments, so we can share all our  best green living tips here!

3 simple tips to save water in your home without spending a cent

© Stroie Mihai Razvan | Dreamstime.com

Going green doesn’t need to be a huge mission. You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune to convert your home to green living in one fell swoop. Often it’s more a question of gradullay changing your everyday habits. It’s true this can be harder than just going out and buying a clever green gadget, but ultimately it is changes in our behaviour that make the most difference.

Saving water is a good example of this. You could go out and buy water saving devices for every tap in the house, you could install a grey water filtering system to re-use water for irrigation and toilet flushing. Those are all great ideas but what if you can’t afford to invest in them right now?

Here are three simple ways of saving water in your home without spending a cent. In fact they are so simple that it seems crazy to be repeating them again, but it is surprising how easy it is to forget and lapse back into the bad old water-wasting ways.

1.  Brushing teeth
So many of us still let the tap run while we brush our teeth. I know in my family it still happens, despite frequent nagging. If you brush your teeth for 1-2 minutes as recommended by the dentist, just think how much water goes down the drain unnecessarily as you carefully negotiate each molar. Try getting each member of your family to fill one cup with water and just use that one cup for the whole brushing and rinsing cycle. Your water savings will be huge over the course of a year.

2. Bathing and showering
Small kids love sharing baths turning the whole washing process into an extended playtime. So as long as they are happy let them share baths adn save water. Once they get too old to share introduce them to short showers instead. It’s so easy to stand for ages enjoying the flow of hot water in the shower, losing track of time and of how much water is flowing over you and down the drain.
If you really want to save water use one of those old fashioned hourglass egg-timers to keep in the shower – they usually take four minutes for the sand to run right through. Four minutes should be long enough for an everyday shower, especially for the kids. Get everyone used to using the egg timer and then switching off the shower as soon as the time is up. And if you haven’t already got an egg-time (I did after all promise tips that wouldn’t cost a cent) you are bound to have a timer somewhere in the house – perhaps on a discarded digital watch or an old cellphone. Once everyone has got used to the idea of shorter showers you may no longer need the timer and you will be saving water as well as the energy used to heat that extra hot water.

3. Toilet flushing
If you have an older toilet cistern it probably uses far more water than is necessary to flush. You can turn it into an eco water saving toilet simply by putting a brick into the cistern. This will decrease the amount of water stored in the cistern and so the amount used for each flush. Don’t have a brick to hand? Then something as simple as a plastic 1 liter/pint milk bottle filled with water will do the same job.